The Blessing of a To Do List

A To-Do List is defined as a list of tasks that need to be accomplished. Typically, a To-Do List is time sensitive and has some sort of organization to it. Sometimes a to-do list is done by priority in tasks, sometimes a to-do list is organized by time. 

Either way, a To-Do list is designed to overcome two critical mistakes that individuals make: relying too much on their own ability to remember things and being haphazard in an approach to get things done. 

Read on for tools and strategies to help the to-do list maximally effective:

  1. Making a useful To-Do list takes practice. Listing out everything that needs to get done will most likely not end as desired. 

Instead, find a quiet time and place to think about what needs to get done. Be as specific as possible and break down tasks into doable parts. For example, instead of writing “cleaning up the house”, write “dust and organize all the bookshelves”. 

  1. To-Do lists also need to include HOW to get the items done. If not, only some of the items on the list- typically the simpler items-will get done. 

Instead, decide how the items on the list will get completed. Perhaps, the list involves prioritizing tasks. Perhaps, there is a daily list with specific items to be completed on each day. Or maybe, the list involves daily tasks which are also ranked by priority. To maximize success, limit a To-Do list to ONLY 3-5 items. A To-Do list that is too long, decreases the completion percentage. Successful management of a To Do list involves a completion percentage of 85-100%.

  1. Complete these two key steps to increase success:

Step 1: Write the To-Do list down on paper. Technology is wonderful and there may be a place for it with to-do lists in the future, but when one is building a new routine, a paper-pencil activity will increase mental engagement. 

Step 2: Set time in your schedule to actually complete the tasks. A To-Do list is only useful if the tasks get done and without time dedicated to accomplishing the tasks, the To- Do list will stay as a list on paper. 

  1. A To-Do list is only useful if one remembers that one has a to do list. Don’t rely on the notion that you made the list so you will remember to do the list. 

Instead, each evening review the list, check off what is done, and find the time to work on the list the following day.  The more one interacts with the To-Do list, the greater likelihood the list will be accomplished. Reflect each day on the progress and add new tasks as needed. To-Do lists are designed to change over time. 

  1. Finally, one of the most powerful ways you can use a To-Do list is to create one right before a vacation, time off or even a weekend.  Make a To-Do list  with all the tasks that need to be done when one gets back to routine. When we go on vacation, so does our brain. Having a list of what needs to be done to get back into routine can be efficient and orienting as one re-enters the work, school or homespace.